The last thing Bill and Gloria Gaither wanted was another niche Bible.
In a market that already had a Precious Moments Bible, a Chicken Soup for the Soul Bible, a BattleZone Bible (with a "weathered metal" cover!), a Surfers Bible, a Thomas Kinkade Lighting the Way Home Bible, and even The Holy Bible: Stock Car Racing Edition, this classy couple didn't want to add to the glut.
So when publisher Thomas Nelson asked if they'd like to do a Gaither Homecoming Bible, their first reaction was, "We don't need another Bible out there," says Gloria. Adds Bill, "We want to emphasize the fact that this wasn't our idea. We were rather reluctant because we take the Bible very seriously."
But as the conversations continued, the Gaithers—who celebrate their 50th anniversary in December—saw that "it would be a great way to help people pick up the Bible that might not otherwise do that," says Gloria. With the popularity of their Homecoming television broadcasts and videos, the outreach potential was too great to ignore.
And so The Gaither Homecoming Bible releases today, complete with 230 devotionals written by Homecoming artists, 89 articles by Gloria, 75 mini-essays on great hymns and gospel songs (including many Gaither tunes), 20 poems by Gloria, and five features on the importance of music. (Download a free sample of Psalms here.)
We caught up with gospel music's First Couple to discuss the project.
You were at first reluctant to do this Bible. What changed your minds?
Bill Gaither: Thomas Nelson's vision is to get the Bible in as many hands as possible. They thought that because we're on TV and in a lot of areas that a regular church program would not go into, and because of our platform of entertainment/ministry, there was a possibility of getting some people's attention to read the Word who normally would not read it. That appealed to us.
There's a perception that the Homecoming specials are mostly for an older audience, but you believe it's connecting with a younger generation now.
Gloria Gaither: Yes. Since 1990, we have had 27 funerals in the Homecoming family, so the majority of our artists now are young families. Most of the singers are in that middle generation—the generation I think is really grateful for their heritage, that they have been given this great body of hymns and gospel songs from an older generation. And it's the generation that is worried that this might not be passed on to their children.
That is the generation that contributed to the making of this Bible. We travel with these people and we love these people. They're regular people trying to work out marriages, parenting, taking care of aging parents at home, lots of issues that we all deal with.
What did each of you contribute to the project?
Bill: I had about 15 contributions, all on topics that were tied to Scripture. For instance, I don't think we have a very good theology on loss. We have such a competitive mentality in America—we've got to win, we've got to be first. We have a great theology of victory, but not for loss. We need to be better at teaching our children the reality of loss.
It's a broken world. One of my topics was tied to a Scripture about "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." That's what the Scriptures are all about—getting your life in perspective and, as Kipling said, being able to meet both triumph and disaster and treating both of those impostors the same.
How does music tie into all this?
Bill: The great hymns and the great gospel songs have lines—biblical truths—that we can live by forever. Gloria and I were married on the 22nd of December, and I remember our first Christmas Eve, holding her in my arms, and hearing the phrase from "O Little Town of Bethlehem": "The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight." For a newlywed it's hopes, dreams, and the possibility of life to come. Forty-nine Christmas Eves later, there have been plenty of hopes and fears. And there is no night in the whole calendar year emotionally as moving as Christmas Eve. If statistics are right, there are more suicides on that night than any other time. So the writer must have known what he was saying when he said that the hopes and fears of all the years were met in that one little Baby that night. A great line from a hymn that is tied into Scripture.